Gap years are always talked about when students are burnt out of their education. Getting good grades, extracurricular activities, SAT’S/ACT’S, AP classes, FAFSA applications, etc. There’s no question that we all need a break from the system but is it beneficial or will it set you back from achieving your educational goals?
In the 2015 National Alumni Survey organized by the American Gap Association in partnership with Temple University, students spoke on why they took a gap year. 92 percent said that they wanted to gain life experiences and grow personally, 85 percent wished to travel and experience other cultures, and 82 percent needed to take a break from the traditional academic track.
The response to whether their gap year produced results, 98 percent said their year helped them develop as a person. 96 percent found it increased their self-confidence with 93 percent agreeing that it helped improve their communication skills. Other skills they earned on their academic break helped them be successful in their careers, develop a sharper understanding of different cultures, and encouraged to recognize themselves as global citizens.
Even though escaping the trials and tribulations of college sounds exciting, there’s always a catch. Student Loan Hero listed a few disadvantages of taking a break your academic track and one of them is not knowing how to plan what you’re going to during your time off.
Structuring your life for a year, a quarter, or semester can be challenging especially if you’ve never had that type of freedom. The costs of programs can be expensive if you decide to travel to gain cultural experiences. Taking time off allows you to branch out on your own creating the space to spread your wings, but the growing pains may follow you.
Being away from home can make you homesick and hinder you from gaining the full experience of the culture you’re in. Once you come back, you may feel like you’re behind your friends that went to college right after high school. Financial aid could be an important factor in your decision if your college makes you reapply and you don’t get the same coverage that you need. If you have scholarships, you may lose them if they don’t allow breaks.
Nick Cortez, a junior at CSUSB, didn’t want to take a gap year because his goal is to be in and out of college within four years and stay any longer if possible. With taking a gap year he said, “I could give my mind a break and mentally prepare for the grind of college.”
Richard Aranda, a graduating senior at CSUSB, had a positive experience with taking a gap spring quarter of 2016.
“I took a gap quarter because I was feeling overwhelmed with school,” Aranda said. “I also wanted to focus more on music. I spent more time practicing my music and resting.”
Going through the process with the counselor was pretty easy and when he came back the following quarter, he felt ready to take on his classes but had to get readjusted to the busy lifestyle again. Needless to say the break paid off and Aranda is graduating in the spring of 2020.